Seagate FreeAgent DockStar NAS Device Review

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Getting up and running with the DockStation is very easy: you simply connect the device's power adapter, connect the Ethernet port to your router, attach your USB drives, and activate the device over the Internet. There is one caveat, however, that isn't mentioned in the manual: Whatever drives you connect to the DockStation must already be formatted--unlike more robust NAS devices, the DockStation does not include the ability to format attached disks.

 

 You have to activate the DockStar online before you can start using it.


The good news is that the DockStation supports a wide range of file systems: NTFS, FAT32, Mac OS Extended Journaled, Mac OS non-Journaled (HFS+), ext2, and ext3. Once a properly formatted drive is attached, the file system that the drive is formatted with is completely irrelevant to any networking client that attaches to the drive through the DockStation. No matter what a particular drive's file system is--as long as the DockStation supports it--any Windows, Mac, or Linux client can read from it and write to it. At any time you can disconnect a drive from the DockStation and connect directly to a system's USB port--although in this case, you do need to make sure that the client system's OS supports the drive's file system. You can attach either USB hard drives or USB flash drives to the DockStation. The DockStation does not support printer server functions (although you can hack the Pogoplug to be a print server).

 

 

 Activating the DockStar takes only a few quick steps (left);
you can set the Pogoplug app to start on Windows login (right).


Once the DockStation is plugged into a router and power, you need to activate it by going to www.seagate.com/activatemydockstar. First you register the device by supplying your name and e-mail address, and then you create an account using your e-mail address and a password of your choosing. At this point you can access the DockStation via the Pogoplug site's Web interface (by visiting dockstar.pogoplug.com or my.pogoplug.com), but most users will probably want to access the DockStation directly via their system's OS. Windows, Mac, and Linux users can download a small client app from pogoplug.com/downloads, which when installed, mounts the DockStation as an attached hard drive (as opposed to a networked drive).

The Pogoplug app gives you the option of starting at login, which would then automatically mount the DockStation whenever you logged into your system. This is assuming, of course, that you also select the option for the app to remember your Pogoplug login credentials--otherwise, the app would start at login, but you would still have to supply your login credentials in order to access the device and its connected drives.

 

 

 

 Multi-drive mode (left) and non-Multi-drive mode (left and right).


The Pogoplug app includes a "Multi-drive mode" option. If you select Multi-drive mode, then each individual drive that is attached to the DockStation appears as a local volume with its own drive letter. If you don't select Multi-drive mode, then the DockStation appears as a single local volume, with each of the attached drives appearing as folders. A "Files Shared with me" folder is present as well, which links to any drives and folders that other Pogoplug users have shared with you. At this point you can start using the DockStation as though the drives attached to it were connected directly to your system.

One word of warning: there is no user-level control on the Pogoplug. Anyone who accesses the DockStation on your local network has full read, write, and delete access to all of the contents of the drives connected to the DockStation--this is an all-or-nothing proposition: you either have full access or none at all. If you don't want someone to have access to the DockStation, then don't install the app on their system, or at least don't choose the app's "Remember me" option.

 

 

 

 Mapping a DockStar-connected drive via SMB on Windows (left),
the Mac OS (center), and Linux (right).


There is another way to access the DockStation, however, that does not need the Pogoplug app at all. In the Web-based Pogoplug settings, we noticed settings for "Windows File Sharing." It turns out that the DockStation also supports mounting the drives as network volumes via SMB (Samba). You can set the Windows File Sharing access for each drive as "Read and write," "Read only," and "Disabled" (note that these settings only affect the ability to connect to the DockStation's drives via SMB--they don't have any impact on accessing the drives via the Pogoplug app). As long as you know the DockStation's IP address or network name, and a drive name (which is used as the "share" portion of the "\\server\share" taxonomy needed), then you should be able to mount and map any of the DockStation's drives. We successfully did this on systems that were running Windows Vista, Mac OS X 10.6, and SUSE Linux 11.1 (although how you do this differs slightly depending on the particular OS). It is important to keep in mind that logging into a share on the DockStation this way does not require any login credentials at all--no user name, no password--you're logging in as a guest with full read, write, and delete access, unless you changed the Windows File Sharing access level as outlined above.

In contrast, the Pogoplug does not have a Windows File Sharing option. That does not mean, however, that you can't connect to the Pogoplug via SMB. But in order to do so requires a bit of hacking. We queried CloudEngines if the Pogoplug would have a Windows Windows option or similar SMB-support built into the Pogoplug Web interface, and this was the company's reply:

"The current Pogoplug firmware does have support for Samba, however we chose not to reveal it in the UI. Our concern was that the user experience would not be consistent with the Pogoplug message of simplicity, consistent user experience across multiple operating systems, and access to your data from anywhere. With Samba only working in the home, and having different configuration and user experiences on different operating systems, we chose to focus on the Pogoplug drive app, which we make available for free for both Pogoplug and Dockstar. Having said that, we are firmly committed to keeping Pogoplug open for users to modify if they want. Samba and several other common NAS applications have been successfully added by users and instructions are available on sites like www.pogoplugged.com and www.openpogo.com."


 Pogoplug General Settings page (top), Payment Settings (middle) page,
and Windows Sharing page (bottom).


All of the DockStar's settings are controlled from the dockstar.pogoplug.com or my.pogoplug.com sites. The General Settings page allows you to add additional e-mail accounts for your account, add or change your screen name, and change your password. You can also rename the DockStar or any of the attached drives. If you want to remove an attached drive from the DockStar, you'll need to first eject it from the General Settings window. If you have more than one DockStar or Pogoplug device, all the devices will appear on the General Settings windows, as well as in the My Library window. A Payment Settings windows show you when your yearly subscription is set to expire.

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Comments

Comments
3vi1 5 years ago

It's definitely a cool device, I'm just not sure it's worth getting tangled up in there subscription service for nothing more value added than a facebook plugin.

It seems like all of the admin features could have been integrated into the device itself, instead of requiring you to pay forever.

newyorkdan 5 years ago

The subscription service does more than just integrate with Facebook. The service is what permits all remote access and remote file sharing. Without the service, you just have a NAS on your local network.

3vi1 5 years ago

That's part of my point:  The service facilitates easier remote access and file sharing...  but they could have implemented every one of those feature directly on the device itself.  Throw in a dynamic dns updater so that you can access it with the same URL every time, and you have links you can share and access from anywhere on the net..

They implemented it in a way that purposefully requires their service... when it doesn't actually add any value over the more direct approach I describe.  It looks like the only thing their approach truly "adds" is a crippling of your functionality if you don't keep paying them every year.

Companies are latching on to the idea that every tech device or media file should be turned into a service and leased to you.  I would rather pay once and know the true lifetime cost up front.

newyorkdan 5 years ago

Seagate licensed the Pogoplug technology for the DockStar from Cloud Engines. Cloud Engines sells a Pogoplug device for the same price, and the Pogoplug comes with a lifetime subscription to the Pogoplug service at no extra charge. The two products are not identical, and each has a few advantages over the over--one key advantage the Pogoplug has over the DockStar (in addition to not having a subscription fee) is that the Pogoplug is easily hackable--and Cloud Engines even sort of kind of encourages it, without actually endorsing it.

3vi1 5 years ago

It sounds like that would be the better option for the technical user.

You can always plug in a USB hub to gain additional USB ports; it's unlikely that you would be using multiple drives at the same time, so it probably wouldn't affect bandwidth to the devices.

3vi1 5 years ago

Quick question:  Are the stars supposed to be used to rate the product, or the review of the product?  I gave it five based on the quality of the review, but I would only give the product a 3.

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